This week I read an article on the horrible outcomes for some children due to extreme corporal punishment. The parents were Christians (which is not the problem) who believed the writings of a Tennessee minister and his wife, Michael & Debi Pearl. Several of these children died from following what he wrote in his book To Train Up A Child. This book endorsed using a switch on children as young as 6 months of age. He described it as being no different than how the Amish trained their stubborn mules.
Does anyone else have a problem with relating a 6 month baby to a farm animal? I thought we had gone beyond seeing our children as property that we could do with as we pleased. I thought we had learned in the last century that children are not born knowing right from wrong, but need to be led with love and guidance to understanding. He points to the bible referring to the rod, as justification for his teachings, but we live in a much different society than when the Bible was written. Children were not seen as important, but rather workers for their parents and others that they may lend them out to. If we didn’t see children differently than in biblical times, why did we institute child labor laws? Why did we create laws against child (and any) abuse?
Fifty years ago, according to the Journal of the Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Chess and Thomas had their first article on temperament published. It was a longitudinal study to understand the behavioral responses of infants and children in order to determine how to best help them grow mentally as well as physically. They followed those children then into adulthood, looking at the role of environment and other influences on their personality and mental health. Others have followed, some with slightly different groupings and labels for these traits, but they all found that children are wired individually, inheriting behavioral traits from their families, which need nurturing and guidance to flourish. This is what they called goodness of fit.
Parent training such as what is promoted in To Train Up a Child, and many Assertive Discipline methods don’t use the knowledge from this longitudinal research. They stay back in the dark ages of seeing children as property or as “evil” and needing to be coerced into compliance. We as a society need to say enough is enough to old ways that mentally and physically abuse children. We need to learn to use the knowledge from temperament research to create methods of raising children that allow them to flourish and learn cooperation and problem solving skills, not just fear and cowering.
What do you think?